SEVEN people were arrested during a protest by the English Defence League (EDL) in South Shields today.
About 350 members of the right wing groups the EDL and North East Infidels gathered from 10am at The Scotia pub in the town centre ahead of a planned march.
Both groups claim they were there to “protect the inalienable rights of all people to protest against radical Islam’s encroachment into the lives of non-Muslims.”
Scores of local people public were in the town centre and there were boos and jeers as about 200 police escorted the march from Mile End Road through Fowler Street to Beach Road and down Sea Road.
When the march reached Pier Parade it was met by a rally of about 100 anti-fascist protesters who had gathered at the junction of Ocean Road and Lawe Road.
Most of the right-wing groups remained behind a police cordon at the Wouldhave Memorial though some broke free through and charged at the counter protesters across North Marine Park.
Trouble flared but police with dogs broke it up, standing between the two groups.
As the EDL demonstrators were led back to the town centre, they broke away from the police escort on Beach Road, towards Hatfield Square.
A witness said: “Four or five youths appeared about 50 yards down the road and some of the protesters ran towards them.”
Police quickly contained the situation by stopping the march and steering them back on to the agreed route back to South Shields Town centre.
Chief Superintendent Ian Dawes said he was pleased with how the march was handled.
Her said: “The day went more or less as we had expected. We made seven arrests for minor public order offences.
“There were 350 people who were part of the EDL and North East Infidels protest and 100 in the counter protest. Our staff have been quick to respond to any incidents through the day.
“The majority of people have acted calm and responsibly. A small number of people caused a bit of disturbance and they will be dealt with.
“We have had great support from the local community, who have conducted themselves with great dignity.
“We have extra officers on patrol and they will remain for as long as they are needed.”
People in the borough had expressed concerns that the rival protests were a recipe for trouble.
On Friday night, the MP South Shields Emma Lewell-Buck and Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird went to Ocean Road to speak to business owners and residents.
They were joined by local councillors John Wood and Audrey McMillan as they walked along one of the town’s busiest streets.